At halftime of both of its weekend games, it seemed that the Yale women’s basketball team was poised to capture its first Ivy League win of the year.
Unfortunately, the Bulldogs (3-16, 0-6 Ivy) lost their early luster in both games, falling to Columbia (9-9, 3-3), and Cornell (11-8, 3-3) on the road. Poor second-half shooting did the Elis in, as they succumbed to the Lions 57-44 and to the Big Red 70-63 in consecutive nights.
“In the second half of both games, Columbia and Cornell increased their pressure and intensity, and the momentum and tempo of the game shiftedÊin their direction,” guard Lindsay Page ’05 said. “In reaction, we became more tense and hesitant — We were still getting good looks at the basket, but our nervous demeanor was translated into missed shots on the offensive end.”
Friday night’s game at the Levien Gym had the makings of a neck-to-neck battle to the finish. In the first 20 minutes of play, Yale and Columbia fought through seven lead changes and five ties, with the Bulldogs taking a narrow 26-23 lead into the locker room.
Key to the Elis’ success in the first frame was their ability to limit their turnovers — a flaw that has plagued them for the past few games — to only five. But the second half was a completely different story. The turnover bug once again reared its ugly head as the Bulldogs committed 13 second half giveaways.
Although Yale struggled from the field in the first 20 minutes, going nine-of-28, the Elis’ ability to control the ball and shutdown Columbia’s leading scorer Sue Altman — seventh in the Ivies in points per game before Friday night — allowed them to take a three point lead into the break.
Going into the intermission the Bulldogs had reason to be positive.
“We were really excited going into the half,” guard Julie Cohen ’05 said. “We were struggling with consistency on the offensive end, but we were proud of the fact that our defense stepped it up and gave 110 percent to enable us to take the lead.”
But the Elis’ aim went from cold to frigid, as the Ivy League’s second 3-point shooting team failed to connect on 12 second half attempts from beyond the arc.
Despite its shooting woes, Yale would not go away. Freshman sensation Erica Davis ’07 converted a pass from captain Brynn Gingras ’04 to pull the Elis even at 37 with 13:16 left in the game. Gingras led Yale with eight points for the game.
Ultimately, the Bulldogs’ shooting struggles caught up with them. The Lions, led by Nicole Lesko’s 14 points, pushed ahead, outscoring Yale 20-7 the rest of the way.
“You never want to take anything away from the other team, but much of our offensive troubles rested on our shoulders,” Cohen said. “We weren’t moving the ball well and we weren’t hitting our shots. We struggled on offense because of us.”
Yale had to quickly forget about their second half letdowns against Columbia and focus on Cornell the following night. In the first half, it seemed that the Bulldogs had rebounded from a poor shooting outing the night before — the Elis shot 46 percent from the field in the first period. The accuracy paid off and the Bulldogs held a 32-27 edge at the half.
But something unforeseen must have happened in Cornell’s locker room, as a completely different team stepped onto the court in the second half. The Big Red came out shooting the lights out and quickly composed a 16-2 run. Just minutes into the second half, the Elis saw its five-point half time lead morph into an eight-point deficit. Despite a team-high 13 points from Yale forward Christina Phillips ’04, the Bulldogs could not recover.
For the second night in a row, the fickle rims were unkind to the Bulldogs as they shot 32.2 percent from the field.
“When they [Cornell] went on their run in the second half they played some zone defense and they switched screens in their player defense which prevented us from getting midrange jumpers,” guard Morgan Richards ’05 said. “Instead we settled for 3-point shots that didn’t fall for us.
The turnover specter reappeared as the Bulldogs committed 14 turnovers for the night. On the other end, Yale’s first-half stronghold on the Big Red offense weakened as Cornell’s Lauren Kilduff was virtually unstoppable, scoring 21 points on eight-of-11 shooting from the field.
Both weekend games started with great hopes and reasons to be positive, but ended in disappointment, a reversal of fortune from last weekend when the Bulldogs saw a valiant second half comeback fall just shy against Pennsylvania.
“Losing is always frustrating, but we made the first step by taking first-half leads,” Cohen said. “Now we need to take the next step and close games out.”
Ahead of a tough weekend coming up against Harvard — last season’s Ivy champ — and Dartmouth — currently second in the league standings — the Bulldogs know to put this weekend’s losses into perspective.
“In order toÊkeep coming back day after day, I can’t focus on the losses,” Richards said. “I just try to focus on the joy of playing and spending time with my teammates.”